<< Day 47: St. Louis to Central Iowa | Day 49: St. Paul, Minnesota >>
Central Iowa to St. Paul, Minnesota
We had a relaxing morning. The children and Ben played some miniature golf, while I caught up on my notes from the last three days of activities.
The St. Louis mosquitoes had left their nibble marks on Sebastian’s legs. Genevieve helped Sebastian count his mosquito bites, and they came up with the astounding number of “35”—yikes!
Last night’s storm had left the sky bright blue, with a few small clouds in the distance.
Our destination today was St. Paul, Minnesota. We had tickets to see the late afternoon performance of the Cirque de Soleil show Kooza.
Ben put the finishing touches on some temporary fixes to the underside of the RV. Several brackets had come loose or fallen off, and we had a hole in one of the two rear air-ride bags. With a combination of safety wire, a bicycle inner tube used as a tie, and a hefty dose of optimism, we headed off.
Bright wildflowers were growing by the roadside--miles and miles of dancing flowers.
After seeing so many white homes yesterday (and this morning), imagine our excitement over seeing a house with pale grey paint!
(Okay, it was not much of a deviation from the norm . . . , but it was enough to give us a small thrill. Really.)
We passed one beautiful farm after another.
Several times we saw a row of small signs spaced evenly on the edge of two crop fields. The first time, we noticed a larger sign that identified the area as a “seed variety testing plot.” To my untrained eye, the plants for the two crops always appeared to be the same color and height.
The sky above held a “shark” cloud (use your imagination!):
Every town seemed to have its own water tower that proudly announced the town’s name or related association.
The wind was very strong today, bordering on ferociously wicked.
The corn leaves were shimmying to the right.
Ben did a phenomenal job of maneuvering through all of the road construction and uneven road surfaces while being buffeted around.
A large red apple was painted on the barn of Cedar View Orchard.
As we neared the town of Nashua, Iowa, I looked at my map and noticed a small red square with the label “Little Brown Church.” Ben needed a restroom break; since we were stopping anyway, we decided to continue a bit off of our path and check out the church.
The route to the church took us three miles east of Nashua. We drove by the dam extending across Cedar River.
We found the Little Brown Church nestled in a peaceful field with many trees around it.
I got out of the RV to take a photo and to try to find out more information about the church’s background. While I was walking around outside, I heard the church bells ringing.
The front stairs:
The Old Bradford Academy Bell was displayed near the front of the church.
It had hung in the Academy from 1861 to 1877. The bell had then graced the public schoolhouse until that building had burned down in 1953. It had then been given to the Little Brown Church.
After walking around the church, I poked my head inside the front door, but quickly retreated when I saw what looked like a formal ceremony. As I was walking away, a woman opened the door and called out to me. She was the pastor’s wife, Vicky Mann, and she was exceptionally gracious and warm. She explained that a wedding had just ended but that I was welcome to come inside and look around.
Inside the church, the bride and groom were almost finished posing for photos.
As I was admiring the interior, a loud banging started—like a hammer. Vicky said that many years ago someone had drilled rows of holes in the floor in order to allow hot air to rise from the heating ducts under the church; this design, however, had almost set the church on fire. The holes had then been filled with corks because some of the church women were concerned with the possibility of mice coming up through the floor. Every so often, some of the corks needed replacing. One of the bride’s children was hammering a cork into one of the holes.
Here are the plugged holes in the floor.
I then had the pleasure of meeting the pastor, Jim Mann.
He and Vicky have been married for 43 years.
Pastor Jim filled me in on the church’s background. A song was written about the church even before it was built. The songwriter, William Pitts, had visited this area in 1857 and had been so enthralled with the surrounding beauty that he imagined a small church nestled in the trees. He returned to his home in Wisconsin and wrote a hymn called “The Little Brown Church in the Vale.” When he returned to the spot some years later, he was astounded to see a small church being built in the exact place that he had envisioned when he had written his song. The song, which is also called “The Church in the Wildwood,” gradually grew in popularity and now is found in many church hymnals. (My mother, who grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky, recalls singing that hymn many times.)
The hymn is a part of every wedding that takes place at the church. Pastor Jim said that the marriage vows that were exchanged today marked the 72,937th wedding that has occurred at the church. Wow! Pastor Jim also showed me the rope that is pulled to ring the church bells, and he explained that the ringing of the bells was a part of every wedding ceremony—he tells each couple that they have to learn to pull together.
He was kind enough to let me pull the rope, and to take a photo of me in action!
This was the first time that I had ever rang church bells. The sound was so beautiful.
I was truly honored to have met Pastor Jim and Vicky—both were genuinely kind and caring people.
As we continued north toward Minnesota, we passed another quilt pattern design on the side of a barn.
Large wind turbines were lodged on both sides of the road.
The town of Floyd.
I loved the contrasting colors on this home:
The north end of town had homes with spacious yards.
The farmlands beyond Floyd had some sheep grazing.
More corn fields.
The road ahead:
The 2-lane road was very narrow, with intense winds, lots of oversized trucks and very little shoulder room. This brave bicyclist was pulling an empty small trailer.
Ben and I were startled by a hawk that flew down in front of the RV. It disappeared into the high grass on the side of the road. Just as we reached that spot, the hawk shot upwards, pumping its wings, and clutching a large mouse in its beak.
Entering the town of Osage.
Osage had some beautiful large homes:
(The last one seemed “blind” to me, without any windows in the front of the second story.)
Here is a sweet, smaller home.
A huddle of cows:
More waving corn:
Some farm buildings:
We reached the town of St. Ansger around lunchtime.
We immediately started searching for a park so that the children could play while I prepared some food.
We spied this wedding taking place in a small garden area near the road.
We cut down a side street, made a few more turns, and found a small children’s park.
Sebastian was swinging very high when he slipped off the hard plastic seat and fell to the ground with a thump. He lifted his head up, crying and holding his arm. I had witnessed the harsh impact and thought that perhaps he had broken his arm. He had some scrapes (and a big scare), but no broken bones—whew!
Leaving St. Ansger, we passed the large processing plant for Grain Millers, Inc. and Horizon Foods. A row of train cars sat waiting to be filled.
A small stone and wood sign welcomed us to Minnesota as we entered the town of Lyle (population 566).
We added our wishes that Elsie Hanson have a very happy 97th birthday!
Most of the land in southern Minnesota appeared to be devoted to farming, and the buildings were beautifully maintained.
To ensure that we were on time for the 4 p.m. performance of Kooza, we left our 2-lane road behind and got on the freeway to St. Paul.
We passed the Hormel corporate offices, across the freeway from the Hormel processing plant. Nearby was a large building with a sign indicating that it was the Hormel Institute, a “medical research” facility. My initial reaction was “Ewww,” as I was making a nonappetizing connection between medical research and processed meat (e.g., Spam). However, I have since discovered that the Hormel Institute is a center that focuses on cancer prevention and control. It was established in 1942 by Jay C. Hormel, the son of the Hormel Foods founder.
Three U.S. Airforce jets had been joined into a sculpture at the regional airport outside of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
As we crossed the Mississippi River, we could see downtown St. Paul in the distance.
We quickly found the Cirque de Soleil tents, down by the river. We were right on time. Hurrah!
Genevieve and Sebastian at the entrance.
We have been enchanted by every Cirque de Soleil show that we have ever seen. Kooza was no exception—it was spectacular. My favorite performance was that of two flexible female contortionists. Ben’s favorite was the acrobat who did backwards flips on stilts. Genevieve and Sebastian were both enthralled the most by two men who performed inside and on top of dual, connected, giant, spinning and rotating circles (like a double ferris wheel). Wow.
After the show, we wandered around the nearby warehouse district, which had a lot of public art to appreciate.
I marveled at these artistic door handles.
We had a delicious dinner at the Tanpopo Noodle Shop.
When we emerged from the restaurant, the windows above the noodle shop were catching the brilliance of the setting sun, and reflectiing that light onto the brick wall across the street. The resulting artwork was pure magic.
Good night, St. Paul!
<< Day 47: St. Louis to Central Iowa | Day 49: St. Paul, Minnesota >>
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